AYER -- Town Administrator Robert Pontbriand delivered bad news to selectmen Tuesday night, stating that due to a recent ruling by the state's Supreme Judicial Court, Ayer's sex offender bylaw has been made unconstitutional.
At issue is a town bylaw that restricts where sex offenders may live in Ayer.
Like some 40 other Massachusetts communities, Ayer had adopted a bylaw that prevents Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders from living anywhere within 1,000 feet of parks or schools, which effectively cuts off about 95 percent of municipalities to offenders.
That, decided the high court in a case involving the city of Lynn, violated the state's constitution.
Lynn had no legal authority to adopt such an ordinance because it was inconsistent with state laws governing the oversight of sex offenders.
Furthermore, the high court said laws passed by the state's legislature in 1999 established clear policies for monitoring sex offenders and notifying the public where they live. The court found that were "grave societal and constitutional implications" in segregating sex offenders.
"Except for the incarceration of persons under the criminal law and the civil commitment of mentally ill or dangerous persons, the days are long since past when whole communities of persons, such (as) Native Americans and Japanese-Americans may be lawfully banished from our midst," Justice Geraldine Hines wrote for the court.
Faced with a bylaw with no legal force behind it, Pontbriand told selectmen that he intended to discuss the matter with the town's legal counsel. But in the meantime, the law will stay on the books but not enforced.
Registering dismay at the court's action, selectmen urged the town administrator to speak with the area's representatives in the legislature to see if anything can be done to salvage the bylaw.